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What Love for the Lord looks like in light of Suffering 2

What Love for the Lord looks like in light of Suffering 2
August 16, 2020

What Love for the Lord looks like in light of Suffering 2

Speaker:
Passage: Psalm 116:11-19
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SCRIPTURE READING – PSALM 116″I love the Lord because he has heard my appeal for mercy.Because he has turned his ear to me, I will call out to him as long as I live.The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the torments of Sheol overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow.Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate.The Lord guards the inexperienced; I was helpless, and he saved me.Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.For you, Lord, rescued me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed, even when I said, “I am severely oppressed.”In my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”How can I repay the Lord for all the good he has done for me?I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.The death of his faithful ones is valuable in the Lord’s sight.Lord, I am indeed your servant; I am your servant, the son of your female servant.You have loosened my bonds.I will offer you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,in the courts of the Lord’s house— within you, Jerusalem.Hallelujah!”OPENING PRAYERAs I have been going through Psalm 116 for the last number of weeks and even as I prepare to pray, I am struck that the Psalm does bear in it a pattern of prayer that I often begin my sermons with. I will often pray that God will renew our minds, stir our hearts and transform our lives. In the Psalm we see the psalmist reflecting on the perfections of God in the midst of suffering. Starting the psalm with “I love the Lord” is his heart being stirred and then particularly in the portion that we are looking at today, a transformation of life flowing out of this reflection or enlight of suffering. It is right that we ask even before we begin to study God’s word that God would indeed renew our minds because we are so hard headed so often that God would stir our hearts for holy affections and that God would transform our lives that we would live lives to His praise and glory. Let’s start by praying that this may be true. Please bow with me as we open in a word of prayer.I love you Lord. Together with the psalmist we say, teach us to love you more. Father God would you teach us from your word this morning, would you engage our intellect, might we hear your word and understand it. These things I pray that we might receive, that you might be glorified and that your word might not return void. In the wonderful name of your son Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.  INTRODUCTION I do miss resounding Amens at the end of prayers for those who are in the room. This is the third week that we are in Psalm 116, third week that I have opened with the same kinds of words.For many 2020 has been a time of multiplication and intensification of suffering. A time of calamity, a time of turmoil and a time of distress. Many are suffering from poor health. I am growing weary. This morning’s Coronavirus count worldwide was 21,602,770. In South Africa we have crested the 500,000 mark. Worldwide there have been 768,692 deaths recorded. In South Africa alone 11,677 soles and we have not remained unscathed at Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni. Many are suffering from the financial shortfall caused by the lockdown. You would have heard Chris’ corporate prayer as he prayed for you. South Africa’s economy is in disarray. We have not remained unscathed at Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni. People have lost their jobs. Companies are under pressure. Some do face bankruptcy.Suffering is on the cards for many of us in the short term. And even if you remain unscathed for the moment suffering will eventually knock on your door in one form or another at some time or another too. We are a people acquainted with and familiar with suffering are we not?TRANSITIONSo, in the midst of that context, in the middle of our circumstances we have been reading and studying psalm 116. We started off by looking at:How Love for the Lord flows out of Suffering (1-8)“I love the Lord” the psalmist begins (1)It is through suffering that we come to love the Lord as we experience Him:“Because he has heard my appeal for mercy.” It is through suffering that we come to love the Lord and we come to experience Him. It is through suffering that we come to love the Lord as we experience His mercy.“Because he has turned his ear to me, I will call out to him as long as I live” (2)He describes something of the calamity of his situation. “The ropes of death were wrapped around me (3), and the torments of Sheol overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” (4) God is mighty to save.The psalmist has discovered about the Lord through suffering that, “The Lord is gracious (5)And righteous;Our God is compassionate.”We learn that, “The Lord guards the inexperienced; I was helpless, and he saved me” (6)The last perfection, the last quality and the last characteristic that the psalmist considers in verse 7 and 8,“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you” (7). “For you, Lord, rescued me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling” (8)Through suffering we come to love the Lord as we experience that He is not just GOOD, but that He is so Good to me, He is not just compassionate, but He is compassionate to me, not just righteous but He is righteous to me, Not just Gracious but He is gracious to me. He is mighty to save, and He saves me. That Gods mercy is bestowed upon me in my hour of need. Love for the Lord flows out of suffering. Well friend, creed always impacts conduct. Belief always influences behaviour.If suffering stirs our hearts to love, then it is right to ask what does that love look like? Because love looks like something. It is a verb, it does stuff.2.) What Love for the Lord looks like in light of Suffering? (9-19)Obedience in light of Suffering (9)I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.We looked at this last week, you are to live out your life as if you’re doing so before the very face of God. There is a relationship between suffering and your holiness. Between suffering and your testimony? “I will walk” the Psalmist says.Faith in the midst of Suffering (10)I believed, even when I said, “I am severely oppressed.”Note the desperation of the situation the Psalmist was in. He was oppressed, depressed and severely afflicted. This kind of suffering is all about faith. The struggle for faith. It is in the midst of this kind of suffering that our hearts ask, “Is God powerful enough to help me?” And, “Why hasn’t He?” In the midst of this kind of suffering the man of God knows that despite the dreadful dilemma, God is in control, God is seated on His throne, God has a sovereign and perfect plan for us. And so, I believe even though I was severely oppressed, and he is able to profess faith despite the problem. Faith is the tangible knowledge that God is bigger than the difficulty, and that God is willing and able to help in the midst of calamity. Faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen (Hebrews 11:1).Trust in the midst of Suffering (11)In my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”But what about when you’re in the middle of the valley? When our present experience doesn’t feel good, when we don’t feel God’s compassion, when we don’t feel God’s grace, when we don’t feel God’s mercy.So often at that very point in the process you end up married to Job’s wife. “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Its not just wives that speak untruths to us in the midst of suffering or husbands, children and sometimes friends.So often at that very point in the process you end up having friends like Job’s friends! You’ll remember Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar from the book of Job? They’re the guys with the lengthy speeches (Job 4-25). Job recognised that they were doing a rubbish job of comforting him and told them to their faces, “You are all miserable comforters” (Job 16:2). Their speeches included many inaccuracies around why God allows people to suffer. Basically, they said Job was suffering because he had done something wrong. God finally condemns them near the end of the book, “I am angry with you [Eliphaz] and your two friends, for you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).Job could have rightly said, in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.” Instead, like Job, and the Psalmist, we’re to stand firm on the promises (in this case the Person, characteristics and perfections) of God even in the midst of suffering, even when we don’t feel it, even when the rest of the world is say contrary to know Gods word. We are to say God is merciful, we are to say God is gracious and compassionate and He is good even to me. We are to trust in the midst of suffering.Gratitude in light of Suffering (12)How can I repay the Lord for all the good he has done for me?The Psalmist is moving in the Psalm between talking about how he was in the midst of suffering and talking about what to do in the light of suffering. Here he is talking about in light of suffering, on the other side of suffering. He is experiencing God miraculously saving him even from clutches of dead. The rhetorical question is, “How can I repay the Lord?”  This is rhetorical. But I don’t want to run past it too quickly. I also don’t want to spiritualize it too quick. He is asking the question, “How can I repay the Lord?” I went into my lexicon yesterday and looked for this phrase repay and where it was used in close proximity to the Lord. 16 uses mostly negatively talking about God repaying sinners in His wrath. Then the rhetorical question, “How can I repay the Lord?” I am reminded of the benediction that we read often at Crystal Park Baptist Church. Romans 11:33-36 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor? And who has ever given to God, that he should be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.” The writer Paul to the Romans saying, “How on earth could we ever do anything to God that could be repaid back.” I guess verse 12 is rhetoric. How could we repay God for what He has done for us?” And yet as I was looking at this word “repay” I came across Hosea 14:2, “Take words of repentance with you and return to the Lord. Say to him, “Forgive all our iniquity and accept what is good, so that we may repay you with praise from our lips.” There is a link between understanding who God is and understanding what God has done in our lives and the heart which turns to Him, a desire to be grateful to Him and that grateful turning of our heart issues in thanksgiving. Thanksgiving issues in worship, worship issues in praise. There is a connection between all these things that we may repay you with praise from our lips. Gratitude in light of suffering, how can I repay the Lord for all the good that He has done for me.Thanksgiving in light of Suffering (13)5a – I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord (13)5b – I will offer you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord (17) I will treat verse 13 and 17 together because they seem connected. It is like a refrain here, its like a song with a refrain, it gets repeated more than once. Verse 13, “I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” and then in verse 17, “I will offer you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord” Thanks for who God is and for what God does is a familiar refrain in Gods word. Its all over Gods word, its so far baked in Gods word, cant even list all the times that psalmists and writers give thanks to the Lord1 Chronicles 16:34, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.”Psalm 100:4-5 I was reflecting on through the course of this week, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name. For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever; his faithfulness, through all generations.”Psalm 106:1, “Hallelujah! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.”Psalm 107:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.”Psalm 118:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.”Psalm 118:29, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 136:3, “Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever.”There is a link between experiencing God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness, God’s love, God’s grace and God’s mercy, the perfection of God at play in our lives and the saint responding in thanksgiving. And then there is a link between the response in thanksgiving and further desire to worship and praise God. They always go together. “We cannot adequately praise and worship God without also being thankful”.Thanks, is the response of the faith-filled heart. The human heart is bent toward covetousness. We hunger for that which we don’t have. The faith-filled heart is a thankful heart, for it realizes how much it has been given. The human heart is by nature an ungrateful heart…even more so as we see the day approaching. 2 Timothy 3:1-2 says, “But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy…” The faith-filled heart in contrast is constantly reminded of how much we have been blessed and how many mercies we have from God.Maybe a note on giving thanks in the midst of suffering, because that’s what is under consideration this morning. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We are to be thankful not only for the things we like, but in the circumstances we don’t like too. That doesn’t mean that we thank God for evil that happens in our lives, but that our Lord sustains us through trials (James 1:12). We don’t thank God for harm He did not cause, but that He gives us the grace which is sufficient and even His power perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). This way we can grieve and still be thankful, we can hurt and still be thankful, we can be angry at sin and still be thankful. Love looks like thankfulness in the midst of suffering, looks like gratitude in the midst of suffering. Love looks like trust, faith and obedience in the midst of suffering and love looks like worship in the midst of suffering.Worship in light of Suffering (14)6a – I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people (14)6b – I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people (18)In the courts of the Lord’s house—within you, Jerusalem (19a)We have been working through the book of Ecclesiastes at Crystal Park Baptist Church over the last year or so and we find ourselves in chapter 5 presently, I think we are about to crest into chapter 6 God willing next week or the week after. You may remember if you have been listening to sermons for the last while that in 5:4-7 we dealt with vows just a few weeks ago. When you make a vow it says to God:Don’t delay in fulfilling it, because he does not delight in fools. We are not to drag our feet when making vows to the Lord. Have you gone through a time of suffering? During that time of suffering did you vow to the Lord. Well my friend, don’t drag your fet, fulfil your vows but not only that,Fulfil what you vow. Don’t Break Your Promises. Better that you do not vow than that you vow and not fulfil it,Don’t Shoot Your Mouth Off: Do not let your mouth bring guilt on you,Don’t Back-Peddle: and do not say in the presence of the messenger that it was a mistake and didn’t mean what I said.Why should God be angry with your words and destroy the work of your hands? For many dreams bring futility; so, do many words. Therefore, fear God. Don’t Forget Who You’re Dealing with.Fulfil your vows to the Lord. When you are delighting in what God has done in your life, do it in the presence of the people, in the courts of the Lord’s house. Worship God in light of suffering for the way that He has saved you from the midst of it.Praise in light of Suffering (19b)Hallelujah!Psalmist ends this by saying, “Hallelujah”. Hallelujah means Praise the Lord! It is a wonderful, sanctified word. We see it all over the place in the Old Testament and we see it in the New Testament as well. I was reading even this morning and last night Revelation 19, I am not going to spend time there, but the word is repeated 4 times in a chorus of praise. This morning I woke up and I listened to Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, a glorious, resounding, wonderful praise to the Lord. I listened to the Royal Albert Hall singing, hundreds and hundreds of people praising God for who He is and that not even a smatren of what awaits us. In Revelations 19, it talks about a multitude, shouting “Hallelujah”, peels of thunder rolling as God’s people praise God. That’s what the word literally means. Praise Yahweh, Praise the Lord. This is the triumphant end where the psalmist concludes. As he has considered who God is enlight of his suffering. He has considered what his love for God needs to look like enlight of suffering, his response is to praise God for who He is and what He has done.Freedom from Suffering (15-16)The death of his faithful ones is valuable in the Lord’s sight (15)Lord, I am indeed your servant; I am your servant, the son of your female servant. You have loosened my bonds (16)I was a reading, a man named Samuel Totshell. He wrote a book “The House of Mourning” in the 1600s. In it he was talking about the value of the saints in the eyes of the Lord. He drew an excellent observation by just looking at the word “value”. He looked at the word “value” in God’s word:Isaiah 43:4, “Because you are precious in my sight and honored…” Honoured is the same word as valuable here.1 Samuel 18:30, talking of David, “Every time the Philistine commanders came out to fight, David was more successful than all of Saul’s officers. So, his name became well known.” That word well known is valuable used here.Jeremiah 31:20, “Isn’t Ephraim a precious son to me…” The word precious is the same word as valuable used here.Job 31:26, “if I have gazed at the sun when it was shining or at the moon moving in splendour,” The word splendour is the same word as valuable used here.The death of his faithful ones is valuable, is honoured, is well known, is precious, is splendorous in the Lord’s sight. That’s what happens when we put these expressions together, we get an idea that God places value on the death of His faithful ones. There is little time to expose all of what this means. Spurgeon is quite helpful as he dwelt long on this passage. He says first of all and I have drawn this from a number of sermons that he preached and quotes that he compiled in the treasury of David. But he says that the death of the saints is precious in the Lord’s sight because the Lord “seeth not as man seeth.” God does not judge according to the appearance, He does sees all things as they really are, not partially, He traces the duration of his people, not on the map of time, but upon the infinite scale of eternity and He weighs their happiness, not in the little balance of earthly enjoyment, but in the even balance of the sanctuary above. The death of the saints is valuable not because our short lives have value, but our eternal lives are valuable to God.  Another point He makes as such, Almighty God watches over, and sets a high value upon the holy and useful lives of his people and will not lightly allow these lives to be abbreviated or destroyed. The point that he makes: the holy ones, the faithful ones, the saints of God, their lives are so valuable in the Lords sight that He will not allow their lives to be cut short or abbreviated for any circumstances. No, the very hours of their life are allotted to them by God on high and He will cause even the circumstances to come together to draw them to Himself at the appointed time.We can be assured that He exercises special control over the circumstances of their death not just the times of their death. These are under his special arrangement. They are too important in his estimation to be left to accident. In fact, chance has no existence. In the intervention of second causes, he takes care always to overrule and control them for good. Let the weakest believer amongst us know and be quite sure, be “confident of this very thing, “that he will never suffer the great enemy to take advantage of anything in any manner of your death, to do you spiritual harm. On the contrary, he takes all its circumstances under his immediate and especial disposal.When the saints are dying, the Lord looks upon them, and is merciful unto them. Who can say how often he answers prayer, even in the cases of dying believers? Never does He fail to support, even where He does not see good to spare. By the whispers of His love, by the witness of his Spirit, by the assurance of His presence, by the preparatory revelation of heavenly glory, He strengthens His afflicted ones, He makes all their bed in their sickness.Our text says, the death of his faithful ones is valuable in Lords sight, Faithful ones.APPLICATIONFriend if you are in Christ, if you are in suffering, please know as the psalmist began the psalm that good can come even from your suffering, you can learn about God even in the midst of hardship. Also know that enlight of your suffering, your life can be transformed, you can live to God’s praise and to His glory below. But should your suffering end in death, Believer/Saint/Christian, know that even your death is valuable in the Lords sight. The death of His faithful ones.If you are listening this morning, as we come to that point, you know that you are not in the Lords eye as a faithful one, there is nothing saintly about you, you are a poor wretch draped only in your own sin. If this is true of you friend and you look to heaven above and realise that should you die even today, all you can hope to experience from a God that is Holy and Righteous and Just will be eternal wrath then let me tell you this, none that come to Christ will be turned away. For He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).Friends the death of His faithful one is valuable in the Lords sight. How might yours be valuable in the Lords sight in this way. Jesus died for the sins of His faithful ones. Upon the cross He perished and as He perished, he absorbed the wrath of God which is aimed at you. Jesus Christ rose from the grave, death could not keep Him, hell had no hold over Him. Up from the grave He rose as a pointer to us that the debt has been accepted/paid in full, nothing remains. The call on your life, wretched as you are is to come to the cross, not with any self-righteousness or works but to come to the foot of the cross and claim Christ’s own work which He did for you, to pass your sin to Him that he might bear it on your behalf. Friend the death of a wretched one does not cause God any joy we read in the New Testament, but the death of faithful ones is valuable in His sight. Your eternal life is valuable to God, valuable to Him because it brings and ascribes Him glory forever and ever because He is mighty to save, valuable to Him because it puts on display His manful mercy and grace, valuable to Him because in the death of Christ, Gods righteousness is on display, valuable to Him because a good God has made provision for sinners such as you and I to save. The call on your life this morning is to turn your sin and put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and join the eternal chorus, declaring Hallelujah forever and ever for His throne. Do not delay, do not wait and do not tarry. Flee to the cross and you might live. Declare your love for the Lord, abundant life and eternal life in the life to come for His glory sake and for your good I pray. AmenCLOSING PRAYERLet’s close in a word of prayer,Father God in heaven, I do thank you for your word that it is faithful and true and upon it we can build our lives and our testimony. Lord I recognise that the Psalmist suffered to write these words, severely oppressed he was even in the clutches of death and yet even in them Lord God we have such a testimony, such a beautiful testimony of one who learnt about God in the midst of suffering, one who learnt how to live a life of love towards his Heavenly Father. Might the same be true of us, that at the full stop of our lives, might we declare Hallelujah and join that eternal chorus. This I pray in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ; He is our Lord and Saviour. AmenBENEDICTION The benediction this morning is taken from Romans 11:33-36″Oh, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? And who has ever given to God, that he should be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.”